Prevalence of Chronic Depression in Europe

What percentage of adults suffer from chronic depression?

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Map of the prevalence of chronic depression in Europe.

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Depression and mental health in general, is often a medical issue that doesn’t get the attention it requires. Especially since the pandemic, the rates of depression seem to have gone up. The Eurostat database only has data for this topic until 2019. But I’m very curious to see how the pandemic has affected these numbers. Today however, we’re going to look at the 2019 numbers.

One would expect the northern countries to have higher rates of depression due to the dark winter days. We often think that exposure to sunshine is strongly related to rates of depression. It probably is related, but there are a lot more factors that can cause depression.

As we can see, there isn’t a very clear geographical pattern. It does look like the rates are a bit higher in northern and western Europe, but in other parts of Europe, we can also find some very high rates.

Iceland has by far the highest rate of chronic depression. 15.6% of people aged 15 or over, suffer from chronic depression. Portugal also has a pretty high rate (12.2%). third is Sweden (11.7%) and right behind Sweden are Croatia, Germany, Denmark and Luxembourg.

Romania (1.0%) and Bulgaria (2.7%) have by far the lowest rates of chronic depression. It could indeed be true that a lot less people in Romania and Bulgaria suffer from chronic depression. but it could also be the case that the mental healthcare in those countries is not as good as in other European countries and therefore there could be the possibility that there are more people suffering from chronic depression in those countries than the actual diagnosis.

The data for this map comes from the European Health Interview Survey. This means the data is based on a survey and not medical records. Eurostat considers people to suffer from chronic depression if they reported that in the past two weeks they have suffered at least ‘more than half the days’ from either symptom A, B or a total of five of the following symptoms :

A. Little interest or pleasure in doing things
B. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
C. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
D. Feeling tired or having little energy
E. Poor appetite or overeating
F. Feeling negative about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your
family down
G. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching
H. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed; or being so
fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual

Mental health professionals are of course better at making a diagnosis of whether someone suffers from depression. Which means that if the data was based on medical records, the diagnosis would be more accurate. However, that doesn’t have to mean that the overall data is more accurate. When only looking at medical records, we will not be able to find out the real percentage of people suffering from chronic depression. In some countries, the mental healthcare system is less developed or people are simply less likely to seek help from a medical professional if they suffer from depression. These people are covered in this survey.


    1. Hey there!
      I always mention the source in the bottom left corner of the map. In most of my articles, I also include a direct link to the source dataset. If you click on the Eurostat link in this article, it will take you to the source dataset.


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